This is what I do, don't try to understand how I do it; I don't really know either

Human beings are selfish.

By nature we seem to gravitate to anything that brings us pleasure or happiness. We are sold the lie that life is about the pursuit of happiness, therefore whatever does not make us happy is not of value. We are to look for our own best interests and that it’s good to be kind to others, but not at our expense.

I am half way through a class on Governance, and the class has really been exploring all the benefits and ideals of a democracy. I clearly see the positive aspects, but as I begin reading General Romeo Dallaire’s book “Shake Hands With the Devil” and I listen to him speak about how we failed, AND continue to fail, I realized the downside to democracy.

Democracy means that leadership and government are decided by the votes of the people. As I stated, people are selfish. I cry often since Sunday when I watched Hotel Rwanda and think about the loss of life that people were indignant to. I watched General Dallaire in a video today after getting a vaccination (so I can again travel to Africa) and he talks about how we are more guilty today than we were back then, countries like Maynmar and Syria are current examples.

I realized that saving lives of people in other countries does not win the popular vote. Look how hesitant countries were to engage in WW2 and save the Jews. NO ONE in the international community came to the aid of the Tutsi people – they literally had to save themselves. People in the developed world are comfortable in their homes and maybe have a sponsor child photo pinned to their fridge, but people are dying. Politicians want to get re-elected and stepping into a conflict wins favor with no one, but that doesnt mean it’s not the right thing to do. The right thing to do is sometimes to disobey orders: thank you General Dallair for the 32,000 lives you saved in doing so. The right thing to do is important even if it is not popular. Human beings have value.

I am confronted with the fact that these battles are not over. People are dying and many don’t care and even more don’t understand. I want my life to reflect the fact that I valued human life – all human life. The ONE campaign has a saying: “where you live shouldn’t determine whether you live.” I was blessed to be born in Canada and have the freedoms, resources, and liberties that I do. I am going to use all of them to benefit those who were not born here with the same things I was.

I also want to be very clear that every country has its issues. Canada does not have all its problems solved. Africa is built with amazing countries. I have been to 7 of them and I was blown away at how majestic and culturally rich they are. They too have issues and the majority of extreme poverty reside there, so that is where we focus projects, but just because they have extreme poverty does not mean they don’t have anything to offer.

I get asked often when I will go back and the only answer I can give right now is, not soon enough.


Rwanda 1994

Estimated one million people slaughtered viciously because they were told they were different. Once the killing started no one came to help. They were not given value by the world because they were African.

I will never waiver that we are human before we are anything.

We are human before we are African or North American.

We are human before we are male or female.

We are human before we are black or white or brown.

Today I watched Hotel Rwanda. I had never seen it before. It is different to watch it and to have been there last year, in the country and at the hotel.

The most horrible line from the movie is given by a man who filmed footage of the massacres and got it out of the country. The hotel owner believed that if the world saw what was going on they would take action. The man said, “If they see this footage they will say oh my god that’s horrible and go on eating their diner.”

I was in grade 10 at the time and I knew nothing about the genocide until I was in my late 20’s.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who will choose to eat their diner and those who will do whatever means necessary to help others.

I will teach my children about the horrors of the world because we must remember, because we must never continue to eat our diner. I don’t want to be that kind of person. A person who does not recognize humanity.

You may never touch a machete, but you are just as guilty of the babies slaughtered in their mothers arms because as a world we did nothing. We all failed the people of Rwanda.

When I was there I realized how much we can learn from them, and not just the lesson of our disgraceful apathy. A lesson of humanity.

If you ask the question now, are you a Hutu or Tutsi – they will answer, I am Rwandan. They all answer I am Rwandan. They are no longer divided but one people as they always should have been.

May we learn from the Rwandans that we are united, not divided.

We are all humans first.

Scars to Bridges

My Daughter (MD) : mom, what is that?

Me: this?

MD: yeah that

Me: Thats a scar

MD: from what?

Me: when I was a kid I rode my bike through gravel and it went out on me

MD: and you STILL have it!!!!!

Me: yes. Scars stay forever

MD: so my thorn scratches will stay forever?

Me: no, it has to be a really deep wound. They just become a part of you.

You don’t remember everything in your life. Scratches and bruises fade, but scars stay. They are part of my story. I’m not ashamed, I’m not embarrassed, I’m not hesitant to tell you my story. Meet me by the fire and let’s share stories because I know you have scars too. Scars are what we have in common and they build bridges if you let them.

Teach me how to love you

Women are absolutely amazing, but also the worst when it comes to expectations. In our relationships (especially romantic ones but not just those) we expect other people to know how we want to be treated, what we want, and how to bring out the best in us. But people don’t work that way. We are all different and come from different experiences. We really want others to be mind readers and anticipate our needs. No one can live up to that.

We need to be teachers and students.

When someone doesn’t meet our expectations, take a look at how you could have communicated what you needed better. How can you teach them what you need?

When it comes to others, you have to be a student of them. Ask them what they need. Learn their nuances and what makes them unique.

This is a process but it’s worth it. How many relationships have ended because someone doesn’t feel loved, but the other person can make a long list of things they have done? All those things were good but they weren’t what that person needed. Your shooting for the target but totally missing the bullseye.

In relationships it’s like your shooting blindfolded, so you have to listen to the other person’s direction in order to hit that perfect spot. Your going to miss a ton so it’s helpful to at least acknowledge when the other person attempts. Be open to correction on your aim, don’t be discouraged, and don’t give up.

It’s not called target practice for no reason.

Keep shooting.

It’s your birthday

It’s your birthday today but your not here. I can’t believe how old you would be. I can’t even picture what you would look like but I know you would be beautiful because you always have been – because even though you were lovely on the outside, you were gorgeous on the inside.

I took 35 kids skiing today and it was a lot of work but a lot of fun. You would be so proud of what I do and how I get to speak into the lives of young people- just like you did for me.

Life hasn’t turned out how I hoped but there are so many good things. I just miss you especially for the difficult things because you were always there. You always encouraged me and believed I could go further than I thought I could. You saw things in me that I couldn’t see in myself. It’s taken me a long time and I still struggle, but I see them. I still doubt them often but I see them.

I don’t know where I would be without you for even the short time I had you. Where would I be if you were still here? I miss you every single day. Thank you for being you. Thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for the way you loved me.

I love you Susan, happy birthday.

All my love,

Your little sister.

My Happy Place

In my very first class of my Masters program, my professor talked about the importance of having a happy place. I tried several different ones but nothing really settled solidly.

Two years ago my oldest daughter got a snow pass and we went skiing several times together and it was very enjoyable time together. I had offered to my oldest son to go with us but he declined. This year I offered to all of my four and they all wanted to go. I wasn’t sure what would happen.

Most family outings/vacations/trips don’t really go super fantastic. I expected someone would be done a quarter of the day and I would have to sit in the lodge with them. I had my Italian son with me and he would help but it could still be a bit of a waste.

To my surprise, they all loved it. The three who had not skied, all took one lesson and they nailed it. They haven’t had a lesson since and they are better than me.

Today was an accomplishment. Today I went without my Italian son (which made me incredibly sad because we miss him terribly). I doubted if I could handle it, I doubted if it would go well, but I had to try.

We didn’t get out of the house when I wanted because of work and when we left there was a few loud words – mostly by me to uncooperative children, ok mostly just one child. Again I worried how the day would go.

We got there and slowly the apprehension and tension melted away like the snow from the tree limbs in the sunshine. The day was incredible.

Clouds came and went, and it felt like they were playing hide and go seek with us. The sun kissed out cheeks and felt like God was smiling just for us. We had an incredible time. It wasn’t perfect because of a few falls (minor but still with tears) and one child insisting to play in the out of bounds area, but he only got lost once and I found him before having to alert any security (which has happened too many times to count in his life). But it was a significant accomplishment for me.

Today, as I went down the hill for however many times it was, I thought “Amanda, remember this.” What does it smell like, what does it feel like, what do you see? Capture this in your memory – and that’s when I realized this is my happy place. It is on the mountain but not just on the mountain – it’s with them: my four, incredible beyond words, offspring.

This also made me realize a happy place isn’t just about the place – it’s the people. That’s why my happy place was never solid, it didn’t have the people that make me happy. Yes they also make me sad and angry and tired, so very very tired, but they can make me happier than anyone else when they make me happy. They literally light up my world.

Life is difficult. It’s going to get more difficult this year, but I have my happy place; my happy people.

Full disclaimer – every ski day has ended with children in front of the TV while I have wine and an epson salt bath. I then go to bed immediately after and they fend for themselves. My body is definitely letting me know that I am not in my 30’s anymore Toto.

A night of heaven

Last Friday my son and I got into our formal gear and went to one of the best parties I have ever been to in my life. It was Night to Shine, sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, a celebration night for people with special needs. We volunteered to be buddies to one of the 125 guests who came to be recognized and honored. My guest was a wonderful gentleman who came last year (this was year two at this church) and my son was with a young man who came for the first time. We went on limo rides, sang karaoke, had snacks, danced our hearts out and then had a crowning ceremony for our guests to be the kings and queens for the night. The mood was electric right from the start. The volunteers were excited to be there and waited eagerly for the guests to arrive. When they did, they walked down the red carpet to our cheers, a photographer, and videographer. You could immediately see that they felt special. I felt honored to be there and be a part of making them feel that way.

My guest and I hit the dance floor first and after one song he said to me, “you’re beautiful.” So simple, so honest, and coming from him it made me feel like a million dollars. I was super impressed with the dance skills of some of our guests with downsyndrome. They were amazing! We had fun at the photo booth even if we couldn’t get the timing quite right, it lead to lots of laughs. We sang to Aladdin and Elvis Prestley.

After my guest went home for the night I stood with the mom of my sons guest. My son and her son were still on the dance floor because her son didn’t want to leave – I don’t think mine did either. She said she was so happy they came. She said it was a night where her son didn’t stand out.

I looked around and realized that no one stood out. Everyone was there to have fun. No one cared what you were wearing, how you danced, or who you were outside of those walls.  There were politicians, police officers, pastors, moms, teenagers, and people from all walks of life, but it didn’t matter. We all felt accepted and free.

I am convinced that’s what heaven will be like.

I can’t wait for another night of heaven next year to party with the most amazing people.